Hyundai is operating its regular shifts at its Korean plants this week following the New Year’s holiday, but that will change unless the company increases its wage offer.
“All Hyundai plants in Korea are operating normally as no industrial action is planned today,” a Hyundai Motor Group spokesman tells WardsAuto on Wednesday.
Korean Metal Workers Union sources said last week they would hold fullscale strikes in 2018 to force Hyundai to improve its offer.
The Hyundai Motor Group spokesman declines to discuss the wage negotiations that have dragged on beyond year-end for the first time in the automaker’s history. Usually, both sides impose a news blackout when a deal is imminent.
However, the president of the Hyundai branch of the KMWU later Wednesday issued a statement saying the company has not offered a wage package better than the one the union rejected in the last week of 2017 and said partial strikes would resume beginning Thursday.
Newly elected union President Ha Bu-young says the strikes will last four to six hours per shift, costing the automaker eight to 12 hours of lost production each day.
Analysts had believed the union had become sympathetic toward Hyundai’s near-desperate sales plight, but this week’s strike threat came a day after the company issued a dismal sales report for December and all of 2017.
The company says December global sales declined 17% year-over-year to 406,671 vehicles, and full-year sales were down 6.5% with 4.5 million units sold.
Hyundai affiliate Kia, which also did not reach a wage settlement in 2017 and still is negotiating with the union, also saw a 17% December sales drop, to 226,842 vehicles. For the full year, Kia’s sales declined 7.8% to 2.75 million.
Hyundai’s and Kia’s combined 7.25 million sales in 2017 missed Hyundai Motor Group’s 8.25 million sales target by a full million vehicles.
The 2018 Hyundai-Kia sales target has been set at 7.55 million vehicles, only a 4% rise over the full-year 2017 total.
In a New Year’s speech to salaried employees, Hyundai vice chairman Yoon Yeo-chul said the company expected stagnant sales in 2018 with demand declining in the U.S., China and Europe.
It was the second straight year that Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo did not personally make the company’s traditional speech on the year’s outlook.
Hyundai marked the 50th anniversary of its founding on Dec. 29 by giving workers the day off, but did not hold any celebrations or make public announcements to mark the milestone.
The union and management at GM Korea also have dragged their wage negotiations into 2018 after failing to reach an agreement before year-end.